We seek a continuation of a long-term effectiveness trial of a community-level intervention delivered before marriage and designed to improve the well-being of couples and families. The continuation would test the effectiveness of this intervention during the middle years of family development. We disseminated a research-based prevention and education program for couples in religious organizations (ROs) because ROs are the community organizations that offer premarital education programs for couples. The program (the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) is designed to target risk and protective factors for marital distress that are associated with problems in individual an family functioning. In prior funding periods, ROs in the Denver metropolitan area were randomly assigned to three groups: 1) Naturally occurring premarital services, 2) PREP delivered by clergy (who were trained in PREP) in their own ROs, and 3) PREP delivered in a university setting. We have followed the resulting sample of couples from before marriage to an average of 13 years of marriage and have followed these ROs and their use of the prevention program for 15 years. The proposed continuation would allow us to continue following our samples through an average of 18 years of marriage/20 years post-training. Moreover, now that the majority of our couples have children, we propose adding child and family assessment using both self- and parent-report of children's functioning and that of their family, and, most importantly to the field, observational measures of children's interaction with their parents. Thus a continuation of this project is important for the prospective evaluation of intervention effects over time, especially for outcomes that accrue over time, such as divorce, and to provide this innovative extension into child and family assessment.
Our specific aims for the continuation are: 1) Evaluate the long-term preventive effects of a research-based prevention program for couples on divorce, marital quality over time (e.g., commitment, communication), and on adult functioning, 2) Evaluate the long-term preventive effects of the prevention program for children using self-report and observational methods, and 3) Build knowledge that will inform future prevention efforts. We have the only data set that we know of that has robust measures of communication, assessed by both observational and self-report measures, before marriage and over time (at many time points) along with rich self-report measurement of other important constructs such as relationship adjustment, confidence, commitment, and positive connections (e.g., support, fun, friendship) as well as measures of child and adult individual functioning. The proposed continuation is significant in the ways that it can advance scientific knowledge on the long-term effects of relationship education as well as on processes of marriage, divorce, and child outcomes over time.

Public Health Relevance

The health and stability of marriages has been shown to be directly related to the mental health, physical health, and overall wellbeing of adults and children. Therefore, this study of the long- term outcomes for adults and children of community-based prevention strategies aimed at strengthening marriages has considerable public health importance.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Community-Level Health Promotion Study Section (CLHP)
Program Officer
Esposito, Layla E
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Denver
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Markman, Howard J; Ritchie, Lane L (2015) Couples Relationship Education and Couples Therapy: Healthy Marriage or Strange Bedfellows? Fam Process 54:655-71
Peterson-Post, Kristina M; Rhoades, Galena K; Stanley, Scott M et al. (2014) Perceived criticism and marital adjustment predict depressive symptoms in a community sample. Behav Ther 45:564-75
Whitton, Sarah W; Stanley, Scott M; Markman, Howard J et al. (2013) Attitudes Toward Divorce, Commitment, and Divorce Proneness in First Marriages and Remarriages. J Marriage Fam 75:276-287
Scott, Shelby B; Rhoades, Galena K; Stanley, Scott M et al. (2013) Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education. Couple Family Psychol 2:131-145
Markman, Howard J; Rhoades, Galena K; Stanley, Scott M et al. (2013) A randomized clinical trial of the effectiveness of premarital intervention: moderators of divorce outcomes. J Fam Psychol 27:165-72
Hawkins, Alan J; Stanley, Scott M; Cowan, Philip A et al. (2013) A more optimistic perspective on government-supported marriage and relationship education programs for lower income couples. Am Psychol 68:110-1
Wadsworth, Martha E; Markman, Howard J (2012) Where's the action? Understanding what works and why in relationship education. Behav Ther 43:99-112
Stanley, Scott M; Ragan, Erica P; Rhoades, Galena K et al. (2012) Examining changes in relationship adjustment and life satisfaction in marriage. J Fam Psychol 26:165-70
Markman, Howard J; Rhoades, Galena K (2012) Relationship education research: current status and future directions. J Marital Fam Ther 38:169-200
Owen, Jesse; Rhoades, Galena K; Stanley, Scott M et al. (2011) The Revised Commitment Inventory: Psychometrics and Use with Unmarried Couples. J Fam Issues 32:820-841

Showing the most recent 10 out of 20 publications